Finding Sustainability in Our Core Business

When Noel Coon started on his first pipeline job as a welder helper at the age of 13, he quickly fell in love with the life of a pipeliner.

Noel Coon working on a Mannix pipeline job in 1963.

 

 

 

The nomadic lifestyle of traveling across the country to follow work began to wear on him, though. “In those days, pipeliners were like carnival folk,” Noel said. “You have no roots, and it’s not a good lifestyle to raise a child.”

Left: Noel Coon (in the welders mask) has his weld inspected by the “straw boss” of the tie-in gang on a job for Northern Natural Gas in 1965. (A straw boss supervises other workers but doesn’t have much authority.)  Right: The same job three months later.

 

Noel’s desire for something more stable culminated after finishing a six-month-long job across Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. “I had it in my head that things were going to continue as they were. But when the job was done, there was a fish fry, we got our final checks, and everyone was gone.” The feeling of loss, coupled with his desire for stability, led Noel to an important realization, which would become a motivating force for starting NPL: “I wanted to do the same thing, in the same place, with the same people, for the same people, forever.”

Left: Noel Coon in 1964 working for Grayco across Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. Right: A job at the famed Area 51 test site in Nevada. Noel referred this job as a “widow maker” for the 90-mile commute and 16-hour work shifts.

 

 

 

In 1968, Noel received some good advice from the man who gave NPL its first blanket contract. “He told me not to gear up for greenfield [cross-country pipeline] work. It’s over. Gear up to put in main extensions and service lines. Do whatever the gas companies want you to do because they are going to phase out their own crews. Gear up to replace gas systems,” Noel said. In making gas distribution construction NPL’s core business, Noel found the stability he was looking for. And it has sustained NPL for 50 years.

Today, the importance of sustainability is evident in all aspects of NPL’s business – from our “customer for life” approach to serving customers, the longevity of our employees, our philanthropic activities in the communities where we work, and our forward-thinking approach to safety and quality.